A decision that has been months, if not years, in the making is expected today when the Illinois Liquor Control Commission holds its regular meeting in Chicago.
The Commission, after going behind closed doors one last time at the start of its meeting, is expected to announce whether Anheuser-Busch – through a wholly owned subsidiary – can continue to hold an ownership interest in Illinois distributor City Beverage.
City Beverage consists of four wholesalers in the state; three in the Chicago area and one in downstate Bloomington.
The Commission’s legal division, over the summer, cited Anheuser-Busch and Wholesaler Equity Development Corporation or WEDCO, for violating the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Legal counsel claims the “Craft Brewer Act,” signed into law last summer, prohibits a brewer from owning a distributor – which, in essence, is what A-B is doing.
Attorneys for A-B and WEDCO argue that wasn’t the intent of the law and WEDCO shouldn’t be stripped of its minority ownership.
If the Commission agrees with its legal division then WEDCO would be forced to divest its 30-percent interest in City Beverage.
On Tuesday, the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois – who has sided with the Commission’s legal division – issued a press release highlighting the significance of today’s ruling.
“We feel the ruling will have significant ramifications on the regulation of alcohol in Illinois. The ruling will determine whether the Commission is implementing the legislative intent of SB 754 (P. A. 97-0005) which became law June 1, 2011, prohibiting brewers from owning distributorships, or if the Commission is creating contrary public policy.”
For those of you curious as to how we got to this point, our legal analyst, Thom Vogelhuber, put together a timeline of the case.
The Commission is expected to take up the matter around mid-afternoon Wednesday.